Background to the report

Supported housing is accommodation that is provided alongside support, supervision or care to help people with specific needs to live as independently as possible in the community. This includes, for example, older people, people with a learning disability, people with a physical disability, people at risk of or who have experienced homelessness, or people recovering from drug or alcohol dependence. Supported housing can be short term or long-term, depending on a person’s needs.

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There are no good data on the numbers of units of and people living in supported housing. However, a government review in 2016 estimated that in 2015 there were 651,000 supported homes (a room or bedspace in shared supported housing or a self-contained home) in Great Britain (85% of which are in England). The review estimated that the government spent around £3.5 billion in England per year on the accommodation element of supported housing through Housing Benefit.

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) reimburses local authorities for paying Housing Benefit claims and sets Housing Benefit policy. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) is responsible for the supply and quality of supported housing. The Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) develops policies that aim to give more people the choice to live independently and healthily in their own homes for longer.

Other government organisations also have a role with certain groups of people, for example, the Department for Education for young people leaving the care system. Local authorities are responsible for managing Housing Benefit claims and inspecting supported housing.

There has been considerable criticism of some supported housing, in particular, short-term supported housing. Some types of supported housing are exempt from locally set caps on Housing Benefit which means providers can charge high rents. This type of exempt accommodation was the subject of an inquiry in 2022 by the Committee for Levelling up, Housing & Communities (the Committee).

The Committee concluded that some residents’ experiences of exempt accommodation were ‘beyond disgraceful’. The Committee also noted the lack of regulation and governance of providers, and ‘the exploitation of the system by people seeking to make profit from it’.

Scope of the report

This investigation sets out the facts on how the supported housing system in England works and government oversight of the sector. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) are both involved with supported housing. The Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) is also involved. Local authorities are responsible for managing the system within their areas.

This investigation does not focus in detail on central government’s efforts to increase the supply of supported housing. Nor does it look at issues related to the quality of care provided in supported housing. This report does not seek to examine and report on the value for money of supported housing, nor does it make any recommendations.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (10 May 2023)

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